Success Is Mostly Automatic.

by Mark on October 29, 2012

I’m a thinker. I think all the time. My mother used to call me the “absent-minded professor” because I was a little learning machine, but I often couldn’t even remember why I had walked from one room to the next. I would be too absorbed in thought to remember. Being a thinker obviously has certain advantages, but few people seriously consider the disadvantages.

Thinking is seriously overrated.

Being a thinker can help you learn quickly, understand difficult concepts, and solve challenging problems, but it also has a dark side. Thinking too much can be devastating to your ability to take action. One problem is “paralysis by analysis,” where you keep analyzing the situation and just can’t pull the trigger.

Another problem is that thinking allows you the opportunity to talk yourself out of taking the actions that you know that you should take. Your excuse could be that the time is just not right, that you are too tired, that the other person involved is not available or isn’t interested, or any number of excuses. A thinking brain is an excuse-making machine.

Thinking causes procrastination.

I spent a lot of time thinking about what causes procrastination, and it finally occurred to me that thinking causes procrastination! We never procrastinate on things we do without thinking!

Think about when you are getting ready in the morning. You probably have a routine that is extremely well rehearsed by now. How often do you stop in the middle of your routine and procrastinate on the remaining steps? I would guess just about never except for when something significant interrupts your pattern. You have made the process so automatic that you are probably barely conscious of what you are doing.

Make it automatic.

Think about ways to stop thinking. Since it’s your thought process that is short-circuiting your ability to take the actions you need to take, then eliminate that thought process.

I committed to exercising every single day precisely to eliminate the thought process that was causing me to NOT exercise. Now I don’t give myself the option to not exercise, so there is no internal debate inside my head. The result is that I take action. Nike had the right idea. Don’t think. Just do it.

Even though I had been exercising every day, I was still procrastinating a little bit before I would do it. I would come home from work and immediately turn on the computer automatically. It was just conditioned as a habit. While the computer was booting up, I would change into my workout clothes. Then I would begin to feed my Internet addiction, often while stuffing my face with some fast food that I bought on the way home.

Recently I decided to change my pattern. Now I come home, leave the computer off, get dressed in my workout clothes, and immediately exercise before going on the Internet or eating. My goal is to insert exercise into my home-from-work routine and condition the habit pattern until it is completely automatic. No thinking required.

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